Wedge Racing in 2000
[Update 6/12][Update 7/9][Update 10/12]
The year 2000 has been a bit out of the ordinary for the Wedge Racing Team. In recent years, I believe I have given up something as a result of not racing ENOUGH, so I thought I would see if I could sneak in a couple of "extra" events this year. We are racing more and the good news is that we are NOT enjoying it less <grin>.
We began the year in January with our first trip to the South of Florida since 1989. The trip down was long, but the weather was great and Crewman Jerry came down from Ohio to help us out. The tow was uneventful and we made it "almost" through the weekend without any problems. During the second qualifier, I got hit from behind coming out of turn 3 when I slowed for a yellow flag. One of those 'racing incidents' and fortunately the damage was not critical to either car and both were running again soon. The car handled great and we qualified the Goodyear/Quaker State Wage in the top five for both the National and the ProVee race.
The National race was first and exciting. We ran in the lead pack and took the lead with two laps to go. Unfortunately a late brake effort by a competitor took me off into the grass when he hit me in turn 2. Then on the last lap, there was another melee in Turn 2 which took out about 5 cars. In the end Jim Kearney eeked out a win over Jeff Loughead with the Wage coming in 3rd.
The ProVee race, only a few hours later turned out to be equally exciting, but was marred by a 2 car crash in Turn 4 on the second lap. Brian Keck and Rich Richardson came together with Brian ending up on the short end - upside down against the tires. That incident brought out the pace car for 10 laps while they got Brian out of the car. Although he was taken to the hospital for a checkup, he ended up with nothing broken - just a LOT of very sore muscles for a few weeks. After the restart, the race settled down to a 4 car pack for the lead. That pack stayed basically the same until the checker although several attempts were made to change the order. The finish ended up with Donnie Isley in the lead followed, less than a car length back, by the Racer's Wage, then Greg Bruns and finally veteran Bill Noble.
All in all, a pretty decent weekend - a third and a second to bring back to Georgia along with a 1,2,3 finish for Goodyear in the ProVee race.
Our second event of the season was the Tom Nehl Classic at Roebling Road. The car ran great and we qualified just a tenth behind Donnie Isley. Jerry again came down to help out as did Bill Hall and Ricky Lambert. (Bill just bought a Vee and will be racing AGAINST us in the future <g>). In the race, Donnie and I quickly put the rest of the field behind us and I was just beginning to think about finish line strategy when a piston fractured and scattered engine parts all over. That was my first failure with the Butler motors, but in the end, sometimes it just "happens". That ended my race and Donnie went on to win.
3rd was Road Atlanta. We qualified under dry conditions and I put the Wage on the pole ahead of Donnie and Greg. Unfortunately, Greg had contact with a slower car and ended up destroying his car against the HARD Road Atlanta concrete between Turns 3 and 4, ending his season for 2000. The next day dawned under cloudy skies and a light rain. Our race was first and it was a toss up whether to run rains or slicks. Then, only a few minutes before grid time, the skies opened up and the choice became clear. Our group included Formula Fords, Formula 500s and Formula Vees with the Vees being grouped at the back of the grid. As the green flag waved, I decided that discretion was the order of the day and just did my best to stay clear of everyone through the first half of the lap. That was a fortunate decision as I had to take evasive manuevers for a spinning Ford in Turn 1 and then a second one in Turn 4. I continued to try more to be careful than fast as I worked my way through the F500s. The first full course yellow came out on lap 4 for a Vee high centered at Turn 5, and the second came out after only about 3 more racing laps when the lead Formula Ford high centered on the curbing at Turn 6. Just before the pace car came out for the second time, the last Ford in front of me spun coming out of Turn 5 moving me into the overall lead.
After a couple of full course yellow laps WITHOUT the pace car, the tower finally figured out that I was in the lead and grouped the pack once again. Following the last restart, I gradually pulled away from the field finishing first overall with Donnie coming second.
In April, we decided to make the trip to Summit Point, WV for the 2nd ProVee east race. Jerry also came over from Mansfield to help out again. We discovered some new braking problems there, augmented by the fact that I had never visited the track before. After the dust settled, we were gridded behind 6 cars, 3 of which were National Champions - some formidable competition.
I managed to gain 2 spots on the start and gradually worked my way to 3rd behind Brad Stout with Roger Siebenaler (reigning FV Champ) pulling away in front. About mid race, one of the slower cars spun coming onto the front straight. Jim Kearney, who was running well in the top ten, collected him, launching into the air, then crashing into the tires ending upside down and on fire. Fortunately, he was not injured seriously, but the race was red flagged while they cleaned up the debris and transported Jim to the hospital for a checkup.
Following the restart, Brad and I kept good tabs on Roger this time and I managed to take 2nd away from Brad going into Turn 1 on the last lap. I was "close" to Roger and thought I might have a shot at taking him if I hit the last turn onto the front straight perfectly. Alas, there is a VERY FINE LINE between "perfectly" and "ALMOST perfectly" and I crossed the boundary. With a LOT of luck, I managed to keep control of the car as it left the track into the gravel and got it back onto the asphalt without serious incident - giving up only that 2nd spot back to Brad.
Still, finishing 3rd in that group (and setting fast lap) my first time at the track was a nice wrap-up for the weekend. During our picture taking ceremonies, I realized that we had current or former National Champs in all of the top 4 spots - covering some NINE years of Formula Vee Championships.
Still in April, we trekked to the newest track in the Division, Carolina Motorsports Park, near Kershaw - again our first time at the track. Nemesis, Donnie Isley, was also there, having run the regional race earlier in the year to get a 'leg up' on me :-). After a few spins here and there as I "developed my lines", the Wage showed it's stuff again, taking the pole in FV. In the race, Donnie got the jump on me on the start when I had trouble getting the car through the last turn onto the front straight. Some close racing followed and I was finally able to get a good shot out of Turn 5 onto "valley straight" to take the point. Donnie gradually dropped back with handling problems and I concentrated on improving my lines and making it as easy as I could on the car and tires.
At the end, we were again tops on the podium and also set fast lap with a new lap record. My finish here, placed us into a tie with Donnie for the points lead in the division.
Poooh! Who wants to be TIED! :-). Let's go to Daytona and settle it!
Donnie and I met again at Daytona the first weekend in May under some glorious skies and perfect temps. Linda and I stayed on the beach as usual and made a mini-vacation out of the trip. I experimented with a new exhaust system, but chickened out for the race and went back to my old standard megaphone. Donnie continued to have handling trouble while the Wage was the best it has been in recent years. In the 1st qualifier, we got the pole by over 3 seconds, but in the second, Donnie closed the gap to just over 1 second back.
In the race, we got somewhat balked by slow F500s in Turn 1 and Donnie got around for the lead. Considering the LONG straight coming to the finish line, I elected to bide my time for a while. I followed Donnie until a couple of Fords lapped us with (what I THOUGHT was) 1 lap to go and I went past Donnie with them. Ooops! Just couldn't make anything happen - the Fords were too fast to draft. Donnie easily set me up coming out of the chicane and blew by for the lead and the win -?? - NO! no checkered flag - it WASN'T the last lap, thankfully. This time, I waited until the last possible second and made the dive - beating Donnie to the finish line by only a couple of feet (but the points are just as if I won by a MILE <g>).
Now the points are settled back out and the Wedge Racing Team is out front, at least in the Nationals. The ProVee East, on the other hand, has not been quite as kind and (we think) we are in 2nd place behind Roger Sibenaler. The next race is Road Atlanta, then the double National at Roebling followed by some optional events for the team. We have to decide about a trip to IRP for the last of the East series Pro Vee races before the ProVee Runoffs at St. Louis. Then we also have to consider whether to make the trip to the newly renovated VIR and, of course, the obligatory "practice" trip to Mid Ohio in August.
Update: 6/12/00 - The second Road Atlanta event is now history and the weekend was PERFECT. Weather was HOT, but clear and the 'Powers that be' arranged for us to have THREE sessions on Saturday instead of the classic two and we still got finished before 5P. The Wage had the pole and after a short battle with Steven Schiff and a much longer one with Brian Keck, we managed to pull out a lead and run the remainder of the race unchallenged. Everything seemed to be running near perfectly, although the motor seemed to be down on power a bit. I think that maybe the 8 or so weekends on it has something to do with that. FRESH motor on the way for the next race - THAT should do the trick (I hope!).
Anyone who wants to provide some sponsorship to help us decide - please be sure to drop us a line :-).
PS. The fish and pond are doing quite well this year and we are about to be fish parents again - want some Koi?? :-)
to be continued....
Update: 7/9/00 - Well.....It's taken me a bit to get around to writing this update 'cos I'm not sure how ready I am to proclaim my stupidity :-(. We picked up our freshly rebuilt motor (the one that exploded in March) and trucked on down to Roebling for the Double National. Being Group 1 we started out at 8:30A and things did NOT go well. The engine would NOT run for any length of time. I stayed out long enough to get my required 5 laps, diagnosed the problem as fuel related and then retired to the pits - some 21 seconds off the pace (that's a LOT of time!). Going over everything in the pits didn't reveal much - I replaced everything between the fuel cell and the carburetor and hoped for the best.
The next session, I wanted to be prepared as I knew I would probably be able to tell before I got to Turn 1 if the problem was not fixed - it wasn't. A quick trip (actually slow) around to T4 and I came in the back door. I went back to my paddock and replaced the carb with one from my spare motor and got back out on the track. Fortunately, THAT was the problem and the car ran decently after that. We ended up 2nd on the grid - about 0.008 seconds back of Donnie.
More time in the pits and I checked out a few things, but found nothing major. Next day (Sunday) we broke in a new set of front tires during the qualifier and layed plans for the race. Right after lunch, we hit the track again and after the start, Donnie and I quickly broke away to a large lead. I experimented and couldn't decide what to do - Donnie seemed to have me covered pretty well - I thought I could probably pass him into T1, but he could pass me before the finish line coming out of the last turn. I decided to try for the pass on the last lap, but knew I had to stay close to be able to complete the pass. Alas - I ran out of talent coming through the carousel to begin the last lap and lost about 10 car lengths as I recovered from the off course excursion. Donnie won easily with me finishing 2nd a few car lengths back.
Overnight, I had some inspiration about my car handling and got up early to implement a bit of car redesign. This time, I had to qualify to overcome the 21 second deficit from my 'broken carb' qualifier, but the car seemed quite good. We again qualified second about a 10th of a second behind Donnie.
In the race, I felt the car was doing better. Although Donnie was still almost impossible to pass on the straight, my handling seemed better and I felt more confident about a last lap pass. As the race went on, Donnie and I swapped places a couple of times and Brian Keck came up to join the fray in the lead pack. A little over halfway through, I took the lead again and gradually (VERY gradually) pulled away to about a 2 second lead. All was going according to plan until 2 laps from the end when I felt a strange lurch in the motor going into T5 - hmmmm. Then through T6 and all of a sudden the engine shut OFF completely coming up the hill at T7. 2 seconds later it picked up again and I knew I was in trouble - BIG trouble (this is where the stupidity comes in). The car was coming in heavy at impound and it SEEMED as though I was using less fuel than normal so I had decided to put a "little" less fuel in it for the race - about 1/2 gallon TOO much less! I don't recall reducing the fuel by more than about a quart, but I can't argue with the facts :-(. The next lap, it quit for 2 seconds at T5 and about 5 seconds at T7. Going into the last lap, I left the car in high gear to save as much fuel as possible and tried to adjust my line enough to keep the fuel from sloshing away from the pickup. It made it around to T5 and into T6 and then the motor coughed again - this time in the middle of the turn and I didn't have enough torque to keep the rear end behind me. I looped around and slid to a stop in time to see Donnie and Brian go by. Engine still running, I shoved it into gear and struggled to the finish line a distant 3rd. Tooling around in a dejected cool-off lap, the motor finally ran COMPLETELY out of fuel at T7 and I was just able to coast into impound.
Following the event I determined that there was almost a gallon left in the fuel cell, but it just couldn't be pumped out by the engine. I obviously should have known and should have NEVER taken the chance by reducing the amount of fuel. I thought I had plenty, but I guess I now know for sure (I learned the hard way).
The points race was tight going in - I had a significant lead, but was dropping races (we can only count our best 6 finishes) and Donnie was still to receive full points from his next race. After the first one, I still had the lead by 2 points, but following the second (only 1st place would have gained me any points) we are tied. Not sure how it goes from here since we both have identical records down to 3rd place except I have more races. This'll be one for the pointskeeper unless one of us wins another race this year :-).
I still have plans to attend more races - I decided to skip the IRP Pro Vee for financial reasons so the next race is likely to be the Pro Vee Championship event at St. Louis. VIR is still up in the air as is Mid Ohio at the end of August. Work (the plague of the middle class) might dictate some changes in my plans.
to be continued...
|Moroso w/ProVee||Jan||2nd in ProVee, 3rd in Nationa|
|Road Atlanta||March||1st (first overall)|
|Summit Pt||April||3rd (Pro Vee)|
|Roebling Double||July 1-3||2nd, 3rd|
|St. Louis ProVee Final||Aug 5-6||DNF (crash while in 2nd)|
|VIR||Aug. 12-13||Didn't run|
|Mid Ohio||Aug 26-27||DNF|
SCCA National Championships
|Mid Ohio||Oct 1-8||Finished 5th after tough battle|
Update 10/12/00 - Well....the latter part of the season was not kind to the Wedge team. We skipped IRP due to lack of finances and made the trek instead to St. Louis for the Pro Vee final. That race actually went quite well....for a while. Even having never been at the track we were 3rd or 4th fastest in the first practice (not bad with the crowd of top runners there). During the 1st qualifier, we had a bit of a problem when the clutch cable snapped on the first lap! We elected to stay out and get whatever track time we could and impressively managed a 5th qualifying spot (the track would normally require 4 shifts per lap - we got it down to about 1 1/2 or so with a bit of gear grinding here and there). We fixed the clutch and .... well, as could be expected, it RAINED for the second qualifier. Not much chance of moving up on a wet track.
Race time! - we lost a couple of spots on the start despite getting what appeared initially to be a "good start" (LOTS of fast cars out there). Took quite a few laps, but we worked our way back up to the lead pack and played 'tag' with Roger Siebenauler and Brad Stout for quite a number of laps - each of us taking a turn or two at the top 3 spots. About lap 20 (of 24) I was 2nd and when I slowed in T1 so as to not hit Roger, Brad got in a bit too deep and we had contact. It spun me around acrossways in front of the rest of the field and flattened my right rear tire so I could not continue. Alas, that was not the worst of the damage as during the melee, Terry McKenna got airborne and came down on the top of Bill Noble's car crushing Bill's left hand in the process.
A brief 2 lap full course yellow to clean up the mess and get Bill packed off to the hospital for some surgery and stitches led to a 2 lap shootout between Roger and Brad. Brad came out the winner by about a nose at the finish line and they celebrated while we packed up the remains for the long tow back home.
After the nasty St. Louis, we journeyed to VIR to scope out the
reworked facility. It's a long track with 16 turns and so would be considered somewhat
difficult to learn. We couldn't get there in time to test, so were left with only a
single practice to come to grips with the track before the lone qualifying session.
We found ourselves pushing a bit harder than we should and unfortunately squeaked off the
end of turn 14 with too much speed. Unfortunately, the grass was wet due to the morning
dew and the path was DOWNHILL to a very stout guardrail some 200 yards away.
Normally that would be PLENTY of runoff room but, the dampness removed all ability to slow
or turn the car -
we (Linda says that "we" do well, but
"I" am the one who crashes <g>) I smacked UNDER the guard rail at about 50
mph, destroying the front axle and assorted other important parts. As an aside, with
no tires in front of the rail, it turned out to be somewhat of an advantage to have gone
UNDER the guard rail (about 3 feet). The suspension uprights arrested the momentum of the
car (giving their lives in return) and reduced the deceleration load to my personal frame
- instead of 6 inches of space I had about 3 feet. The design of the Wage kept me somewhat
secure inside the roll cage. .... (sigh - another long tow back home.
Mid Ohio - the last National race of the season (and the home of the Runoffs). The longest tow yet, but big plans. OUT THE WINDOW (again) - this time the steerng box started slipping around (you have to experience loose steering at race speeds to understand). Three sessions were required before we finally got a handle on it and fixed the problem.
All else being OK, we started the race with high hopes, but again lost positions at the start (I have a higher desire to FINISH than some of my competitors). As the race wore on, we worked our way forward to 3rd where I found a several second gap up to the 2 leaders who were running together.--- Nose to the grindstone (and pedal to the metal) and we spanned the gulf and reeled in the lead group.
BUT - lady luck hasn't been with us much lately....while attempting to pass for second place, I had incidental contact with the car I was passing and launched myself into the air about 10 feet or so. Although the car was still driveable, it had significant damage and was no longer competitive at the front. I managed to slide off the track trying to go fast anyway and ended up in the tire wall at the keyhole........Yet another LONG TOW HOME (getting REAL tired of this.)
Amazingly, Donnie Isley and I have stayed tied in SEDIV points through all of these races since the 2nd race at Roebling in July. Each of us being in position more than once to break the tie and capture the crown. In the final analysis, neither of us was able to take the bull by the horns and the result was a tie - Same points -same number of firsts, seconds and thirds no fourths, same fifths and somewhere after that I came out the winner. A hard fought battle with a great competitor but The Wedge Racing Team came up with the FV SEDIV title for 2000!
NOW - Briefly, a synopsis of the Runoffs - the season ending National Championships.
We tested on the Friday before race week and things started out rosy. We were FAST - fastest car that had tested so far. Well, (good) luck was not our friend again - we spun a bearing in the freshly rebuilt Butler motor :-( seems that maybe I didn't have enough oil in it (even Quaker State can only work if it's INSIDE the engine). Instead of a lot of practice, we spent half the day swapping in the old standby. A couple of laps at the end of the day confirmed only that the replacement ran respectably well.
Race week - first practice (with 45 other cars on the track) and things just didn't "feel good". We ran decent speeds, but, even with fresh Goodyear tires, were well off our test day times and substantially behind the leaders. (More work and adjustments as we tried not to do "too much", but just enough.)
1st qualifier - things felt about the same as Monday, but we tried harder to set up a good lap. Too many cars and we never managed to get in the right place. Didn't feel good about it, but ended up 4th on the grid - not bad considering how it felt.
2nd.qualifier - some tire pressure adjustments and a couple more small changes - felt about the same as the previous 2 days - not good. We didn't do very well in finding the right (empty) spot again and went even slower. Expecting the worst, we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves still pretty high on the grid in 5th - losing only one spot.
3rd qualifier - RAIN - having raced at Mid Ohio in the rain a couple of times before, we elected to stand on the sidelines and watch (no desire to repair the car with an all night effort). It was obvious that no one would move up on the grid so the potential for disaster far outweighed the potential for gaining valuable information.
Race day warmup - car felt pretty good. Better than recently, but we still didn't go very fast - but we didn't TRY either, we were scrubbing in tires for the race.
RACE - On Wednesday night, the weather had turned COLD and got worse. It rained all day Wed, most of the day Thurs and most of the day Friday - getting colder as time progressed. This day (Saturday) we found ourselves standing on the COLD grid in a light blowing snow mixed with sleet and a bit of rain. Although it looked pretty ugly as we rolled onto the track, it did not get any worse and had even stopped by the time the green flag fell.
Although I managed to hold my position through the first lap, as usual I lost a few positions as racers willing to die made moves that pointed to certain disaster at the end of the back straight. Miraculously, the disaster didn't occur - at least right away so I bided my time, dropping as far back as 9th or 10th before things settled down enough to actually start racing. As the laps wore down, I worked my way back up to 4th position, but was making no ground on the guys in front of me - just couldn't get down the straightaways as fast as I needed to. Thinking I had 4th wrapped up, I was a bit caught out by a car diving inside of me at the end of the straight on the last lap. Although I could have made it a bit more difficult for him to complete the pass, it didn't seem fruitful at the time - it wasn't a podium position and I would have had to move farther than might be considered "reasonable" to block the attempt. SO!......
Finishing in impound again can't be considered all bad, I think. A solid 5th - right on the heels of 4th and within site of 1st at the end - AND, with a complete, undamaged car!! Couple that with the SEDIV title and - not a bad year at all! :-)
Now we have a couple of months to recuperate and come up with some new tricks for the car (and the DRIVER!).
Looking forward to 2001!
Steve and the Wedge Racing Team
With special thanks to my "Ohio Crew" - Jerry and Jeremy who live near the track and without whom I would not be able to manage my trips to Mid Ohio - much less an entire week at the Runoffs by myself. It is quite a comfort to have good friends who can take the time to help out and truly participate in this addictive hobby. Speaking of addictive - Jeremy purchased a F500 earlier this year and just might be in the Runoffs on his OWN next year -whatamIgonnadothen??? - JEERRRYYY? <G>!
Kudos also go out to all the volunteer race staff who so gamely stood out in (and often slept in) that miserable weather - just for that opportunity to get a glimpse of themselves on Speedvision <g>.
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